Chinese officials are cracking down on youth online gaming, which they say negatively affects the health and learning of minors. Official guidelines released Tuesday outline a new curfew and time restrictions for gamers under 18.
Six measures were outlined in the guidelines, aimed at preventing minors "from indulging in online games." Among them is a ban on online video games for minors between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Minors will also be restricted to 90 minutes of game time everyday except national holidays, when they are allowed a maximum of three hours.
Online microtransactions, which many view as lucrative and gouging, are also targeted. These purchases are capped monthly at $28 or $57, depending on a minor's age.
China's new directives implicate adult gamers too. A state spokesperson says that everyone, regardless of age, is prohibited from playing games that depict "sexual explicitness, goriness, violence and gambling."
Chinese officials will also require everyone to register accounts for online games using their real name and phone number, which will help government entities to regulate playing time.
"The State Administration of Press and Publication is working with the Ministry of Public Security to lead the building of a unified identification system, which would provide user identification services to video game companies, so that they can accurately verify the identity of minors," a government statement said. "We are also going to gradually perfect and enrich the functions of the identification system, to achieve gaming time data sharing across platforms, so we could know and therefore restrict the total time every minor spends on gaming across platforms."
It is not clear how offline single-player games factor into the new guidelines.
The regulations focus on furthering President Xi Jinping's continued anti-video game efforts. In 2018, Jinping called for officials to take action on the large amount of nearsighted children. In addition to heavy schoolwork and mobile phones, Jinping blamed video game addiction for the vast number of myopic children.
Video game addiction was officially recognized as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization in 2018. The criteria doesn't include a certain amount of hours played. Rather, a video game addict is described as someone with an inability to stop playing even though it interferes with other important areas of life.
Market research firm Niko Partners reported that digital game revenue in China will reach $33 billion in 2019, making the East Asian country one of the world's largest video game markets.
China's market power was perhaps underscored when Blizzard Entertainment suspended an esports player in October after he voiced support for the Hong Kong liberation protests, prompting many to accuse the American company of pandering to Chinese interests.
NPR's Huo Jingnan contributed to this report. Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR's Newsdesk.
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